With 3 key Spurs players injured, the Golden State Warriors proved to be too much for San Antonio on Monday, May 22 (Tuesday Manila time) as they cruised to a 129-115 victory and remained undefeated heading to the NBA finals.
Despite Game 4 being the inevitable end for the most consistently successful franchise in the league, fans flocked the AT&T Center in full support of what was left of the injury-ravaged Spurs.
For them, however, what was probably sadder than the impending elimination was the realization that Game 4 may have been the curtain call of the incomparable Manu Ginobili.
If it was indeed his final game, he fought with honor and went down swinging in his first playoff starting job in 4 years. The 39-year old chipped in 15 points, 7 assists and 3 steals in 32 minutes of action.
The resilient effort made for a beautiful exit as he received a standing ovation from the San Antonio faithful after checking out when the game was expectedly out of reach. Even in what was possibly his final moments on the court, Ginobili could be seen giving out instructions to the young guns left as if the game was still winnable.
This display of resiliency and unmatched competitive fire was nothing new for the 15-year veteran and 4-time NBA Champion. He has faced massive hurdles since the beginning of his career, when he was picked 57th out of 59 in 1999.
Knowing that he had a lot of work to do, he opted to stay in Europe first and played with Italy’s Kinder Bologna. There he improved his craft and won multiple titles and tournaments in the span of two years. When he returned to the Spurs in 2002, he was ready to be recognized as one of the biggest draft steals in NBA history. Thanks to a high-class and well-built organization, Ginobili won his first NBA championship in just his sophomore season.
As if the Spurs could want nothing more from his excellent basketball prowess ranging from flashy playmaking to tenacious defense, Ginobili also provided the team with unmatched humility and respect for coaching decisions, as proved by his now-legendary status of being one of the greatest sixth men not just in NBA history, but possibly in all of basketball.
Things such as this molded the Argentinian star into a very unique kind of talent. He didn’t need to start a game nor score 20 points a night. Like a well-polished Swiss Army Knife, he was just ready to provide whatever the Spurs needed out of him and more often than not, he did not disappoint.
But enough praises from us, take it from the head honcho himself, Gregg Popovich. With more than 20 years of coaching experience under his belt, this is what he had to say about Ginobili as a player, as reported moments before he exited Game 4:
“Manu was the toughest competitor I’ve ever been around and did more to win games than any player I’d ever been around.”
For such a highly-regarded coach to say such things about a player speaks volumes on what he really means to the Spurs and to the league as a whole.
Like Tim Duncan before him, the legend of Ginobili has nothing left to prove.
Adios. – Rappler.com